Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Mystery Writers in Weird Tales

A few days ago, I wrote about the appeal of mysteries, even to writers and readers of weird fiction. Few stories represent the magazine Weird Tales as well as "The Call of Cthulhu" by H.P. Lovecraft, yet Lovecraft's story is esentially a mystery. Lovecraft claimed not to have been able to write a detective story. I wish he would have given it a try. Other writers of weird tales were not so hesitant. Anthony Boucher and Fredric Brown are two obvious examples of authors who were equally at home in both genres. (If you haven't read Boucher's Rocket to the Morgue [1942], I would suggest you do so at your earliest opportunity.) Several writers who contributed to Weird Tales also wrote mysteries, crime stories, and detective stories. I have written about some of them so far:

I'll write about a few more in the next few days. They are:

Phyllis A. Whitney (1988), John D. MacDonald (1972), and Edward D. Hoch (2001) were all recipients of the Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement from the Mystery Writers of America, an organization cofounded by Boucher.

Rocket to the Morgue, Anthony Boucher's combination roman à clef/locked-room mystery about the science fiction scene in southern California in the early 1940s. Rocket scientist and occultist Jack Parsons is here, as are Robert A. Heinlein, Julius Schwartz, L. Ron Hubbard, and composites of other writers. L. Sprague de Camp saw through Hubbard. So did Boucher. Near the end of the book, two other characters comment on a conversation between the Hubbard character and his sister (who is called Ron for short):

     Jenny Green shuddered. "I've never seen them like this before," she murmured. "It's--they aren't human."
     Joe Henderson blinked. "I know. It's--" He groped for words and found them in the only language in which he was truly articulate. "It's like watching something extraterrestrial, extragalactic even, across cold reaches of interstellar space--" (p. 197)
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

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